The mud kitchen was barely through our front door and all three of my children were excitedly playing with it. Stirring their imaginary food with the various utensils, asking me what I would like for dinner and cooking it up, excitedly describing all the different ways they could play with it.
Craig Hill, the local carpenter who had made and delivered the mud kitchen – so called because it’s designed to be played with outdoors and to encourage children to get mucky and dirty – offered to carry it into the back garden for us and I’ve never seen three children move to get their shoes on so fast. These are the same children I have to ask a thousand times in the morning to get their shoes on so they won’t be late for school, and still they are running around barefooted five minutes after we should have left the house.
They played with it constantly for well over an hour. They made blueberry pancakes, bangers and mash, and a savoury crepe with cheese and spinach (the weeds in our garden have a use, after all!). They got all the plastic food from their little toy shop and put it onto the kitchen, and raided the (real) kitchen cupboards for all the plastic plates, cups and cutlery they could find. They only came inside for lunch and then it was straight back outside for more mud kitchen play. There were no fights, no arguments, no moaning about being bored. It was amazing. And in the cold and the drizzle, too.
It’s fair to say, our mud kitchen from Mud Kitchens Cardiff is an overwhelming success with all three of my children – Little Miss E, age 6¾, Little Man O, 5, and Toddler Boy I, 2½. We genuinely love it.
Made by Craig at his workshop in north Cardiff, the kitchens are a new venture for the popular local carpenter.
A father of three and a former teacher in both primary and secondary schools, Craig is passionate about the importance of outdoor play for children, in developing their imagination, coordination skills and even maths and science (he’s currently using his kitchen to help his daughter learn about ratios), not to mention the fact that playing in the mud and dirt can help a child’s immune system too.
He was frustrated that many school children were not getting the opportunity for outdoor play because their schools could not afford to buy the equipment. He’d seen mud kitchens selling for several hundred pounds through specialist stockists and realised he could make them at a more affordable cost. However, he’d also seen mud kitchens selling really cheaply, but lacking the quality needed for a durable all-weather outdoor toy, so he set about designing affordable kitchens ergonomically designed to withstand the elements.
The quality is great – it’s made from pressure-treated tanalised timber (to prevent rot), is really sturdy, and the corners have been rounded and sanded so that little ones don’t hurt themselves. The base has little feet on it so that it does not absorb too much water from being flush against the floor. But it still has a rustic edge about it, so that it looks like it belongs outdoors.
He makes three different mud kitchen options – the Mini Mud (£125), which is the one we have, which includes a single bowl, a four-ring painted hob, hooks and shelves; the Double Dirt, with two bowls, hooks and shelves (£140) and the Triple Trouble (£170). All are 90cm high, which is perfect height for toddlers, but seemed to suit my eldest two children too.
You can buy Mud Kitchens Cardiff with or without the kitchen utensils accessory packs (an additional £25, which is cost price), or you can have it painted in a range of shades for an extra £60 or personalised with your child’s name for £25.
We’d had our mud kitchen for a few days before we’d even introduced the idea of mud to it. I loved seeing my children play instinctively with it, letting them dictate the games and activities. But in the name of a fair review, we had to get some mud involved too!
We had some compost soil left over from last summer, so mixed a few scoops of that with some water to make a lovely gloopy mixture which my children decided was perfect for making cakes with. They had great fun stirring the mixture and spooning it into a cake tin and pretending to bake it. Funnily enough there were no requests to lick the spoon as usually happens when we are baking!
Next on the agenda was making some Halloween potions, with leaves we had picked up outside, grass and flowers, mixed with water and food colouring.
And as for what’s next on the menu at our mud kitchen… I’ve just set up a Pinterest board and am scouring for ideas, but will also see just where my children’s imaginations takes them.
For more information, visit the Mud Kitchens Cardiff Facebook page. If you live in Cardiff and surrounding areas, delivery is free. They are able to deliver nationally, but please enquire about relevant delivery charges.
Mud Kitchens Cardiff has recently launched a new crowd-funding initiative, to provide mud kitchens to children and families that have experienced difficult circumstances.
Donations received will cover the cost of materials needed to make the kitchens, with the company providing their building time as their donation to the appeal.
They hope to help children coping with an unforeseen hardship, bereavement, suffering an illness or struggling with daily life due to a disability. For more information, to donate, or to nominate a deserving family, visit the website.
* We received a Mud Kitchens Cardiff Mini Mud for the purpose of this review.